Independent theatre festival: lenses and tips?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by Klorenzo, May 13, 2017.

  1. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    Hi, I was enlisted (officially, with others) to shoot five days of independent theater festival next month. So, as usual, I'm worrying about stuff and gears :)
    This is "live/on the stage" only, no backstage, etc. It's a very informal festival, so getting close shouldn't be a problem. The stages are at the floor level, not raised.

    Stuff:
    - I'm assuming terrible light, but maybe it's better than it seems
    - My reference "safe speed" for static humans is 1/100s, 1/250s for action. Can I risk more? Should I always stay faster? Of course this is an ISO battle question.
    - Is the E-M1 e-shutter rolling shutter fast enough for this?
    - How do you usually "meter" this kind of things? I'm going, tomorrow and in the next weeks, to exercise to similar shows. EVF and blinkies? Extreme spot metering?

    Lenses:
    - I have: S7.5, P20, O25, O12-40, O60, O75-300
    - Adapted: Nikon 50/1.4, 135/2.8, 70-210/3.5 (this three with a cheap focal reducer), Pentax 200/4

    Of course I've considered the O75, O45, P35-100, O40-150, Rokinon 85, O150 :) but honestly, I'd like not to get other lenses right now (if I like it I may consider it). A used Rokinon at most. I may probably borrow an O45 from a friend.

    So my faster lenses are wide or adapted :hmmm: It seems like the 12-40 is going to get the most of the work. The boosted 135/2.8 (100/f2) sounds good but wide open is not exceptional. The 50mm (non-boosted), stopped down a little, is not bad. What focal length do you think I'll need most?

    - A monopod for the heavy adapted lenses? Or to rise the fish-eye over the head?

    Bodies: E-M1 and E-M10 (three batteries each)
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2017
  2. Mike Wingate

    Mike Wingate Mu-43 Veteran

    451
    Feb 21, 2017
    Altrincham
    Mike Wingate
    Are you planning to be static or moving about to get different views of the stage and actors? Can you roam freely in the mosh-pit? How about audience shots? I would be tempted to use a zoom on the monopod or tripod if in a fixed position. Stills or video? Possibly use a different lens on the first couple of nights, then concentrate with using what gives the best results.
     
  3. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    Sameer
    I have some experience with events like these, and am happy to share what I have learnt and settings.

    I have done quite a few of these over the last few years and half a dozen with m43, usually as some performing group's "official" photographer. Lighting is actually quite variable, but can sometimes be good. Audience heads are a challenge when shooting from a distance without a stage, but you will not have that. But you will want to stay low, to the sides if you shoot from the front to not block the audience. If you can set up in the center aisle (if there is one) a couple of rows in, you are in pretty good shape for covering the stage.

    The last one I did, I used my 14-150II on the E-M10 and switched between my 25/1.8 and 45/1.8 on the E-M1. With your lenses, I would go with the 12-40 on the E-M1 and switch the 25 and O60 (or 45 if you can get it) on the E-M10. Carry some longer lens if you are not able to set up in the front. I am no longer comfortable with manual focus in these situations, but it is actually not too bad since your plane of focus is pretty well defined. So if you are comfortable with them, add a manual lens or 2.

    I typically shoot theater in S-mode at 1/320 and dance at 1/800. Though I will go a little slower if I can get a step of ISO back. I have been spot metering on the floods if there are any, other wise, center metering on the stage. EVF and blinkies might be better, but I have only recently got into the habit of shooting with blinkies and haven't done any stage stuff since.

    In a darkened auditorium, I will let ISO go up to 6400, but I have found that many venues have a decent amount of ambient light and you can shoot at lower ISOs. I can look up the ISO range of the last one I shot if you are interested.

    Here is an image I had posted earlier on the forum. ISO 6400, 1/500s taken with the O75-300 (pretty much worse case scenario).
    Ballet High ISO Sample 75-300.JPG
    I might have a couple of others I can post if you are interested.

    Hope this helps.
     
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  4. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    We should be about 10 photographers, two for each stage, free to move around. There is no pit, just floor-level stages. The first two days are "operators"(?) only, the other three are open to the public. The first two days are good to learn at the same time are to best ones to work freely. Stills only. Audience, location shots, etc. are excluded but I think something will be thrown in anyway. For each stage there are eight short shows per day...yes, it's a marathon... :) So it's not just one show that you go over and over but just about everything. Shows are repeated a few times over the whole period.
     
  5. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    Thanks for the long answer. First things first: what are the floods? :D

    Well, if you used the 75-300 there was plenty of light :) Good to hear that and I hope it will be the same. And probably I do not need super-tele lenses. I expected the 25 to be too short but it seems like it has its place.

    Is there any value in setting a fixed (reasonable) WB? If (big if) the light remains constant for the whole show it may make easier to post-process the whole batch of RAW files. At the same time auto-WB may better reproduce the real changing light to use as a reference later (shooting RAW+medium jpeg).

    If you have more sample, why not, I may notice things I'm not thinking about.

    BTW I also have the small 40-150 but I usually pick the big one over this. What's your take on the 40-150 vs 75-300? Maybe the 40-75 range is more interesting than the 150-300?
    Any problems with e-shutter?
     
  6. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Hi, I use spot metering on the face, but blinkies would be another option (or use both). Have to remember to center the image on the face though, unless you have one of the bodies where metering follows the focus point.

    If the lighting is really good, you can shoot at f2.8-4 and still be under 1600 ISO at 1/160.
    But many venues will be much worse, so fast primes are useful.
    100/2 is great if you can move around... Give it a try... Stop down half a stop if you really can't live with the iq. Make sure to use the magnify function when focusing, focus peaking isn't accurate enough when close.

    Floods: flood lights.
    You can't use e-shutter if the lights have any flicker; you would get banding.
    Otherwise, e-shutter should be ok assuming little horizontal movement.
    But I wouldn't bother; our shutters are very quiet and can't be heard from a few feet away.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  7. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    Sameer
    At many such events, I found that there is no proper stage lighting and the stages are being lit solely by floodlights on stands. This leads to uneven lighting, but the light can actually be pretty good at the spots on the stage where they are directed. If there is proper stage lighting, then metering at a spotlight helps a lot (like in the image I posted).

    Actually that one is from an auditorium with lights turned off and proper stage lighting. But the overall scene was quite dim. Spot metering helped a lot in getting the shot. Depending upon the venue, you may find the 25 too long to get the entire stage if you are in the front. It will probably work well for full body single/dual actor shots from there though. Worth checking it out. It wouldn't surprise me if the 12mm end of the 12-40 is more useful when you are shooting from closeup.

    I think I have pretty much always shot these on auto-WB. I found that both the cameras will stay pretty consistent in the same lighting conditions, so I can often get away with a single adjustment to each batch if needed.

    The 75-300 in the sample I posted was taken from the back of the auditorium (20 rows, so about 60-80 feet?) and was shot at 100mm. I think that I had calculated that I needed 200mm in that venue to zoom in on a single dancer. I have used my 14-150 (and the 40-150 when I had it) as well without any issues. If the venue has several stages, I am guessing that each stage may be small enough that 150mm is enough to give you the close-up shots.

    Never used e-shutter. Haven't really clicked with it because it is soundless and I shoot with image preview off.

    I'll dig up some samples from different positions and post them.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    I used the 40-150R at an NBA game and it was decent, but that was excellent light.
    75-300 may be too long, but it depends where you're gonna shoot from. And it's mostly slower, iirc.

    If you use an adapted lens, remember to set the Ibis to the right length.
     
  9. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    I'd probably use the 100/2 on the E-M1 (bigger EVF)
    and one of the mu43 zooms on the E-M10... 12-40 for whole stage shots if close, or 40-150R if far and light is very good, or the 25 and 60 otherwise.
     
  10. Nice explanations so far... I'll also be shooting an indoor theatre (dress rehearsal) in about a week and am crossing my fingers that I can use what I have... (see signature below). I do have a D700 with a Sigma 105/2.8 I could use as backup but hate the thought of a clattering shutter messing up the timing of the actors, so I'm thinking EM5mkii with 12-100/4 Pro on a tripod using some of the tips already suggested here. Last time I shot theatre was many moons ago... B&W with an old Canon.

    btw... I started a threat just a short time ago "Show Live Theatre" after searching for just such info... and in an attempt to see what others are doing... hope to see some shots showing up there soon! Everything else was related to concerts... a different ball of wax entirely imo.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    If you're near the front, 100/2 looks like this:
    e4154022-1600-.529397.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  12. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    Lorenzo
    Yes, using e-shutter is weird, you only have a very short EVF blackout and an even shorter red SD card icon as feedback. At home the shutter seems very noisy but anywhere else is probably unnoticeable. I was told that many (serious) directors complain if you take shots during a "dramatic silence" moment, ruining it, so I'm a little concerned about noise.

    The 40-150 and the 75-300, at matching focal lengths, have exactly the same maximum apertures. I usually prefer the 75-300 because I think it's optically better in the 75-150 range, but the 40-75 may be more useful (=less swapping). I'll probably discover it tonight.

    About spot metering: you compensate +1, meter on the face and lock with AEL, something like that?

    Is it worth to take short low-speed bursts?

    Now a super beginner question: how do you go about swapping lenses (primes especially)? It's like: ok, let's do 10minutes of group shots, then 10minutes of full stage and then let's close with a tele lens for individual portraits. Or it's more like: follow the show and swap often?
    In my little experience of events it's more like: ok, let's start with the zoom...and the event is over and I used just one lens (and many similar shots).
     
  13. I'm going back a few years again to shooting with B&W... used HP5 Ilford B&W film. It was rated at 400 but in theatre I usually always shot at 800. My old Canon TL had no auto modes... just ASA (800 used) Aperture and Speed... pretty simple. You changed either the aperture ring or speed dial to match the metre dial with the little circle (or that's how I remember it) to get a correct exposure. I also had an ancient Light Metre to assist but used the in camera metre for the most part.
    I don't recall moving around a lot when shooting so as to avoid disturbing what would be their final go at getting it right onstage (final rehearsal). All of my shooting occurred during the first act as in my experience there are very few, if any, plays written where the characters aren't all introduced by then. I don't suspect this will be any different. imo my job as a photographer was not to chronicle the entire play, but to capture each and every actor/ress at least once, whether it be in a group shot or up close. As such I usually had a list of the characters in the and when possible checked off when a shot was taken (or at least sufficient).

    I'll probably follow the same routine with digital shooting. What makes this routine better now is that I don't have to dash off to the dark room to process the film and a few shots to see if it all worked out ok. The biggest difference I see is that while in the old days the ASA was set and that was it for the shoot, often resulting in some pretty grainy results, now there is so much more flexibility with all three points of the triangle.

    I think your least concern, if all they are is plays and don't involve much dancing around, will be the speed you set tour camera at. Check out a couple of early shots and see if you can get away with 1/125 give or take a stop. I would rather have a little noise in my theatre shots (or grain once converted to B&W) than blur. Noise I can fix... blur... not so much! You will soon find out what combination of settings in Aper and ISO will give you the best results.

    Regardless I will be shooting in RAW as even the poorest lit shots will still have a chance of being ok in the eyes of the beholder (the actor/ress) when all is said and done. I'm also thinking a tripod may be the order of the day (with remote trigger), manual focus in most cases as you won't be necessarily following any action, but rather shooting a location on stage. The reflection off any stage lighting off a face may cause some very dark other areas (see SVQuant's photo above and check out the third girl from the right compared to the girl just to her right). Most lighting will be like this, and will force you to do some post... thus my preference for shooting RAW.

    I probably won't use any burst modes when I shoot. These players aren't going any where and there will be lots of opps to shoot them again.

    It doesn't sound like you'll be relegated to the cheap seats so I'd go with your fastest lens that allows to to move discreetly (if movement is allowed) else you choose one location and lens for one act and another location and lens for another.

    Looking forward to seeing what you come up with... and some sample shots of course. (over in the other thread too! Show Live Theatre)
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  14. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    Sameer
    Most of the ones I have shot were meant for private sharing, so I cannot post them without approval from the people involved. But here are a couple of shots from an Indo-American cultural event last October. Same stage, different times of the day and different lighting. There was a stage, but no proper lighting. I was also simultaneously shooting video on my E-M10 while I took these shots. FWIW, I never looked at these after I shot them as a friend of mine did the PP and I only saw the final results.

    The first one is at 1/320s, ISO 1000, f/1.8 with the O45 on the E-M1. It is a slightly larger than 100% crop. WB is a little off on this one, though those shirts were very yellow. You can see the flood from the right reflecting off the shirt.
    MA010332.JPG
    BTW, this was a set of vignettes about parents and in this one my son is channeling me :)

    This one was a singing/talking blast from the past kind of show at the same venue later in the day. Now they had spotlights and an overenthusiastic lighting guy. O25 ISO3200 f/3.5 1/125s since the expected movement was much slower.
    MA010358.JPG
    That's my E-M10 shooting the video.

    And here is one with the 40-150 taken at a school concert (don't have any from a theatre show with this lens which I can share). ISO 3200, 1/125s, f/5.6 @ 150mm. The kids were under a spot while the rest of the stage was dark. Metered on the girl AFAIR.
    PC021273.JPG

    I also posted in this in another thread yesterday:
    I don't believe you can. But if you use face detect, the spot metering meters on a detected face. Otherwise, it is limited to metering at the center.

    Just something to keep in mind if you use spot metering.

    I hope these help.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  15. @SVQuant@SVQuant Not sure which if those photo examples you just posted will apply to Lorenzo's shoot but I'm pretty sure the 3rd photo will be more like what I will be shooting. Your Settings for that were "ISO 3200, 1/125s, f/5.6 @ 150mm" which looks like the maximum close-up you'd get from your 40-150... do you remember approximately how far you were from the subjects when you took that one? If I'm shooting with my 12-100/4 then I'd obviously have to be that much closer.

    I'm also thinking that if we can't be mobile during the shoot we should park ourselves in a spot where we can still get some closeups from our max range (in my case 100mm) and know that we were well covered with group shots with our low of 12mm capability.

    Question... I've been using back button focus a lot recently. Just getting more familiar with my Oly as time goes along... does the BBF also have a bearing on metering... ie. if I BBF on the girl in your shot will the rest of the scene be metered accordingly off of her face? This would also be determined by whether I am metering off of single point or multiples wouldn't it? I am mostly set up to focus on single point but yesterday when I was out shooting at a goat farm (other animals as well) I tried out C-AF with tracking... (can't remember the exact names - again, still relatively new to Oly)... but I have to admit using those settings for the first time I was more than pleasantly pleased.
     
  16. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    Sameer
    I have to run, so here are some quick answers. I will respond in more detail later.

    I think that the 3rd shot was about 50 feet away from the kids. My usual strategy is to place myself (if I can) around where 25mm will cover the entire stage. That usually will give the opportunity of close-ups @ 100mm. Also depends on whether there is a stage and a sloping auditorium. I try to be where the camera is just below the eye level of the performers. I try not to be mobile since I usually shoot actual performances. I think that it is disrespectful and more importantly distracting to both the performers and the audience. Rehearsals are likely to be different.

    I would not use C-AF or C-AF with tracking (likely as useless on your E-M5mII as on my bodies). S-AF usually works really well and quickly. I have little experience with back button focus, sadly, so will leave that question for someone else.

    Hope this helps.
     
    • Informative Informative x 2
  17. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry
    Get someone at home to press the shutter while you're standing a few distances away, and see if you can hear it. My guess is you won't over 10ft in a quiet room.

    +1 may be too much. 0 or +1/3 is usually fine. Sometimes I shoot full manual + Auto ISO and then there's no EC available.
    AEL or half-press+recompose are both fine.

    If people are talking or singing, it's a very good idea or you will get a lot of weird expressions you have to throw out.

    I'd suggest you use both your bodies... makes it easier (but take enough batteries).

    All the events I shoot are primarily for friends & family (occasionally the shots are shared with the whole organization but it's not my main focus).
    So, I usually use a tele zoom (40-150Pro preferably, or a faster tele prime) and just shoot a couple people per shot, and then have to switch to wide (17/1.8 or 12-40) for the group shot at the end, and then shoot some portraits with the 12-40 or switch to the 45/1.8.
    I find switching to slow me down too much sometimes, especially at the end of the show, and would again advise 2 bodies.

    If you're interested in larger group shots during the performance, you'll need to move around, or have the 12-40 or 20mm on the second body.
    I normally don't have the freedom to move around, but I know that the 40mm end of the zoom is probably wide enough from towards the back.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  18. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator; Photon Wrangler Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Barry


    Hi, on the E-M1 mk1, the spot meter never moves.
    Pen F, E-M1 mkII, and E-M5 II (with this week's firmware) will reportedly follow focus.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
  19. SVQuant

    SVQuant Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 20, 2015
    SF Bay Area, California, USA
    Sameer
    I didn't realize that was true for other cameras besides the E-M1 mkII. Good to know.

    I am almost certain that in face detect mode the spot meters on the detected face (for both my E-M10 and E-M1). I suspect I must have read this in the manusl, so I will see if I can find it there.
     
  20. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Clint
    There is a lot of information missing to make recommendations.

    Lighting - depends on the nature of what is being put on and how much they spent. It could be a complicated as there could three or four different types of lighting sources and then there is the color filtration. And all too often the lightening colors are very unique. I shoot RAW and lock my WB at Tungsten. It gives me something consistent to work with. In PP I set WB that I like on several shots, and then replicate that setting to all other photos. That is a beginning spot.

    Auto WB is very good and may be a place to begin.

    Metering - some stage events have pretty consistent lighting throughout the event, but more often than not there is lot of spot lightening. And lighting levels may go from near black to extremely bright. Using spot metering is my primary choice, but can be very problematic for those not use to it.

    Digital ESP metering is very good, without experience I'd start there.

    Lenses - the faster the better. And then it all depends on how far from stage and how much of the scene you want to capture. Since 2009 I've used every lens I have at some point in time for theatrical productions.

    ISO - I would not hesitate to use 3200 if needed! But you probably won't need that high of an ISO.

    Bottom Line - at some plays I've used 1,000s of dollars worth of gear. At the other extreme - I had a customer that needed a children's play photographed that had lightening and art done by Hollywood professionals - shot with Samsung Note 4 Phone.

    It is extremely important to get in at practice sessions and see what you'll be faced with.
     
    • Informative Informative x 1
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1